The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, April 30, 2012

Renewed interest in Ainan.

The past week has seen renewed interest in Ainan from several quarters. Unbidden, we have been contacted by various media, with interview requests. First off, was the commissioning, by the Star, of an article from me, on my personal experience of raising a child prodigy. That appeared in The Star on 25th April 2012.

Next was a TV interview on the 12 pm and 8 pm news on NTV9 on Saturday, 28th April 2012. This turned out to be a brief segment just after the major news of the day. They had about an hour of interview material, but they cut it down to a minute or two – so almost everything was left out, which is a pity. Nevertheless, it did manage to address a couple of interesting developments in Ainan’s life, over the past few years. Images were shown of Taylor’s University logos and their American Degree Program, which Ainan is now attending.

On Sunday, 29th April, 2012 there was a small article in The New Paper, in Singapore about Ainan. This was a group article covering several gifted individuals. The headline title was “Meet the whiz kids”, with the individual title for Ainan’s story being: “Only 12 and he’s in Uni”. This article arose from an email interview, by the journalist Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, the week before. She asked many questions of both Ainan and myself, and received quite a few pages of answers in reply. In the end, though, the article was a brief one, at just over 140 words. It seems that the editor didn’t want to devote much space to it. However, the article mentioned that Ainan is now studying at Taylor’s University on the American Degree Program and pointed out that he is doing a balanced mixture of science, maths and humanities courses. So, though brief, it got the main message across.

It is interesting to compare the relative interest in Ainan between Malaysia and Singapore. In Malaysia, I was given 1800 words of space to write an article on raising Ainan, in the largest English daily newspaper with over a million readers. It took up three pages of the newspaper, including the front page of the Star 2 section, which consisted of a full page photo of myself and Ainan. We were also highlighted on the news, of the second most popular TV channel. In Singapore, however, we were given a 140 plus word mention, in a relatively small newspaper with a circulation of about a hundred thousand. This pattern of differential interest has held since we left Singapore for Malaysia. Our doing so, two years ago, was mentioned in almost every newspaper in Malaysia, with large articles, some of them front page articles. We were also mentioned on the news on several TV channels, as well as on the radio. It was almost blanket coverage. In Singapore, however, our move was mentioned in just ONE newspaper – a Chinese daily, in a small article. Interestingly, within a few days, the online version of that article was pulled down, as if someone wished to censor mention of it completely.

Ainan was born in Singapore, though his grandmother was born in Malaysia. One would expect, therefore, that Singapore would be very interested in discussing him in their media – however, it is Malaysia that is more interested in doing so. This could be because Ainan is half Malay and Singapore is a Chinese dominated country, that quite often plays quite obvious race politics, though they would deny it. Had Ainan been born half Chinese, I am sure the response to him in Singapore would be more enthusiastic. Anyway, it matters little. We are happy here in Malaysia. We are making progress in our life objectives – parents and children alike – and it is a comfortable country in which to live. So, we have no complaints.

I didn’t expect this recent media interest in Ainan. I cannot say whether there will be any more of it. My policy towards it, is to answer the questions of any inquiring journalist, if their newspaper or magazine seems to have honest intentions, towards the subject. Yet, we are circumspect, too. NTV9 wanted to follow Ainan around for a day, going into his every class and recording everything he did. We turned that down flat, because it would have been far too intrusive and would have made Ainan very uncomfortable – as it would make most people uncomfortable. Ainan is essentially shy. The last thing he needs is to be followed everywhere. So, we didn’t allow it. We gave them, instead, a sit down interview in a quiet lounge, since that is what Ainan was comfortable with. Thus, to those who are critical that we allow media access, I would say this: we are far more discerning about the type of access given and the way it is done, than you might think. At all times, we are careful to ensure that Ainan is comfortable with what is being asked for. We must also be comfortable with it.

The piece in the Star allowed me to put across some of the key issues relating to raising a prodigiously gifted child and I think that has an important public information role. It is my intention to raise public awareness of the particular problems gifted children face, in securing an appropriate education and upbringing. I am grateful, therefore, for any opportunity to do so.

On Saturday, 28th April, I was one of the speakers at an NAGCM (National Association for Gifted Children Malaysia) forum on educational acceleration entitled: “Fast Track Kids: should acceleration be allowed, for whom and why?” It went very well and the discussion with the audience was very energetic and interesting – even inspiring. Many matters surrounding educational acceleration were discussed by myself, by Kylie Booker, a gifted education teacher and Head of the Middle School, at the Australian International School Malaysia and by Lucas Teh, who went to a local University aged 15.

There was a journalist in attendance, so I am hoping that there will be an article about the forum and the issues discussed. I will let you know if there is.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:36 AM 


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